Updated: Sep 18
By Shirin Kaye
Since its establishment, Israel has faced hostility from its Arab neighbors and its Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza. After multiple wars, Israel used its newly-captured territory to strike unexpected peace treaties with Egypt and then with Jordan. As the Middle East continues to change, Israel has been using its advancing technology -- like military expertise and scientific breakthroughs -- to combat surrounding enemies and to trade with allies. In September, Israel signed additional unexpected and historic treaties: the Abraham Accords.
These agreements were signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel, Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani for Bahrain, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Later, in October, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok also entered into a normalization agreement with Israel. These agreements were facilitated by the United States and President Donald Trump. The Accords officially signaled cooperation in diplomacy, tourism, trade, arms, economy, technology, agriculture, and healthcare. The peace also represents a normalization of relations, in which these Arab Gulf States finally recognize Israel’s statehood.
The signing of the Abraham Accords is a significant accomplishment for the parties involved. The leaders of the countries gain positive recognition for the deal they managed to strike. The Arab Gulf States can now benefit from their partnerships with Israel, and Israelis win new business and travel destinations in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as new allies. On the other hand, the Abraham Accords are bad news for some. Israel promised the UAE that it would suspend its West Bank annexation plans, but it is unclear how long this pause will last and under what circumstances the US would resume its support of annexation. The Palestinians still get the short end of the stick; the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan are practically isolating them because these Arab countries believe their future lies in unity with Israel. Previous US presidents have tried to coordinate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, however, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu realized that dealmaking with other Arabs would be easier and equally impressive. Moreover, the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel made the decision that fighting Iran, their common enemy, is worth putting aside their differences. Turkey and Russia also have strong influences in the region’s political action and side with the Palestinians; they obviously do not benefit from the ties created by the Accords.
Looking ahead, the US is expected to continue to be involved in furthering peace efforts in the Middle East. Benjamin Beal ‘21, who portrayed Joe Biden in Barrack Hebrew Academy’s mock presidential debate, agreed that the president-elect “is likely to seek more potential countries in the Middle East to normalize with Israel.” Although President-elect Biden will not support the Israeli right as much as President Trump does, he has known Prime Minister Netanyahu for over 30 years and, Beal added, “is a strong supporter of a two-state solution, [though he] sees Israeli settlement in the West Bank as a major obstacle in the path towards peace.”
The Accords’ implications, however, do not stop here. The Arabs’ recognition of Israel and further isolation of the Palestinians are key in reshaping the dynamics in the Middle East. A case in point is that President Trump oversaw the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel only weeks after the signing of the original Abraham Accords. Although the full implications of what this means for diplomatic relations is uncertain, the US removed Sudan from its list of state-sponsored terrorists and Sudan’s peace process with Israel will probably continue to grow. In addition, more Arab countries are likely to sign on to unite against Iran and make their relations with Israel official.